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Terrorism is changing – but the threat remains strong as ever. Our rules must be fighting fit to combat terror. Is our counter-terrorism rulebook up to date?
24 March 2021

Today we ask your opinion and advice in a public consultation.

Two days ago Europe commemorated the terrorist attacks on Brussels five years ago, on Zaventem airport and Maelbeek underground station. The bombs killed 32 people and wounded hundreds more.

In response to these and other attacks – against Charlie Hebdo, the Bataclan and the attack in Nice on Bastille Day – Europe rallied to fight terror. The EU Directive on Combating Terrorism – also known as the “Counter-terrorism Directive” – adopted in 2017 sets minimum rules for criminal justice and support to victims. It specifically addresses the problem of foreign terrorist fighters.

But is it still fit for purpose?

The terrorist threat has changed since then. Jihadi terrorists remain a present threat, far-right terrorists are a growing threat. New forms of terrorism are on the horizon. Methods are changing. Many recent attacks are single actor attacks, often carried out with simple, widely available weapons. At the same time, extremists are increasingly sophisticated online.

In December, I launched a new Counter-Terrorism Agenda to fight these threats. By improving police cooperation and coordination along – with a stronger mandate for Europol. By improving information exchange.

By better protecting public spaces where terrorists strike: a church in Nice. The shisha lounges of Hanau. The cafés of Vienna. Sometimes simple measures save lives. A reinforced door in a synagogue in Halle prevented a terrorist from making many more victims.

By addressing radicalisation through the patient work of prevention.

By countering terrorism online. The European Parliament and the Council have reached a political agreement on terrorist content online. Once adopted, Member States will be able to directly order providers anywhere in Europe to take down terrorist propaganda – within the hour.

It’s now also time to see whether the EU Directive on Combating Terrorism is working as intended, is effective, and future proof. That’s why I launched a public consultation on its evaluation, addressing questions like the following:

Has cooperation against terrorism improved thanks to the Directive? Between Member States themselves, and with agencies like Europol and Eurojust? If so, how? And if not, why not? Has information exchange improved, also electronically?

Are the rules in the Directive adequate to deal with returning foreign terrorist fighters?

Has the protection of victims and their rights improved? Two weeks ago, at the European Remembrance Day for Victims of Terrorism, what impressed me most were the testimonies of victims. Shirley Zapf who lost her parents. Antonio Miguel Utrera who was in one of the bombed trains in Madrid, 17 years ago, as an eighteen year old. Debora Huyghe, who lost her son. Tor-Inge Kristofferson, who survived the Oslo bombing.

Victims of terrorism deserve our protection and support.

Are the definitions of terrorist crimes in the Directive fit for purpose? If we fight terrorist crimes together, we need a shared understanding of what these crimes are – for example to exchange information.

Are the minimum rules and penalties for terrorist offences effective and proportionate? Are they suitable and fit for purpose? Such as a 15 year minimum for maximum sentences for terrorist offences

It’s essential to protect both fundamental rights and security. Has the implementation of the Counter-terrorism Directive raised any fundamental rights issues? If so, which ones?

I invite everyone to complete the questionnaire: national police and security services, judicial authorities and non-governmental organisations who work on counter-terrorism every day – but everyone is welcome to contribute.

Here is your opportunity to tell us what we’re doing right and what we could do better, and to help make Europe a safer place.

We will use your answers to evaluate the relevance and effectiveness of our EU counter-terrorism rules. And if necessary change them.

Source: EU Commission: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/commissioners/2019-2024/johansson/blog/fighting-terrorism-have-your-say_en

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